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Report and study

Portrait and potential of electric-assisted bicycles in Quebec

Results and recommendations from the Vélovolt experiment

Published on 

The Vélovolt team reveals its report, which analyzes the benefits of EABs, examines the potential for modal shift from cars to EABs and makes recommendations to encourage the use of EABs in Quebec.

🚴‍♂️⚡ A quick reminder that

Vélovolt is a trial, research and promotional campaign aimed at increasing the modal share of active transport, in particular electrically assisted bicycles (EABs), among commuters, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked to utilitarian travel.

To read the full study or to consult the highlights

(french only)

  • pdf  - 2.74 mb Rapport : Portrait et potentiel du vélo à assistance électrique au Québec résultats et recommandations issus de l'expérience Vélovolt

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  • pdf  - 1.23 mb Faits saillants : Portrait et potentiel du vélo à assistance électrique au Québec résultats et recommandations issus de l'expérience Vélovolt

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Current state of the situation

An alternative to solo car trips 🚗

The deployment of EABs to counter the expansion of the automobile fleet in Quebec is proving crucial, as the number of vehicles increased by 57% between 1990 and 2021, clearly outstripping population growth by 23%. Despite a steady rise in the number of vehicles per household and a trend towards larger vehicles, EABs offer a promising alternative, particularly for commuting (Whitmore et Pineau, 2024 ; Laviolette, 2020)

EAB versus standard bike 🚲⚡

  • Further, faster: EABs are on average 21% faster than standard bicycles and cover distances 9% to 22% longer (Berntsen et al., 2017 ; Fishman et Cherry, 2016)

  • Easier: 45% of EAB users take different routes from those on a traditional bike, mainly because of the ease of overcoming climbs. In fact, 55% of people who have acquired a VAE cite reduced physical effort as a reason for purchasing (MacArthur, 2014 ; MacArthur, 2014)

The benefits of EABs

Less GHGs and natural resources ☁️

In its life cycle, an EAB emits between 90 and 96% less CO2 per km than a gasoline-powered vehicle, while its battery contains 400 less lithium than that of an electric vehicle ADEME, 2022; Blondel et al., 2011; Weiss et al., 2015; Riofrancos et al., 2023).

Improved physical health 🏥

Riding an EAB can cover up to 60% of the recommended physical activity time and improve a person's physical condition by up to 10%, in addition to reducing the risk of chronic disease and mortality (Berjisian et Bigazzi, 2019 ; Bourne, 2018; Erikssen et al., 1998 ; Yonocha et Mawdsley, 2022)

Savings and job creation 💰

Replacing the car with an EV-transit combo can save a household up to $7,146 a year. While each km cycled generates $0.18 for society, each km driven costs $0.16. What's more, the construction of bike lanes generates 47% more jobs than a road without bike lanes (Équiterre, 2023 ; Yonocha et Mawdsley, 2022 ; Vélo Québec, 2021).

Vélovolt Experience

Key figures

  • 3 years of trials

  • +1000 trial participants across Quebec

  • 50 participating organizations

  • 73% of participating organizations took bicycle-friendly measures (such as bike-friendly destination improvements) following the trials (Équiterre, 2024)

37 % des participant(e)s au projet Vélovolt ont réduit l’utilisation de leur voiture pour les déplacements domicile-travail dans l'année suivant leur essai d’un vélo à assistance électrique.

Top 5 most popular incentives to encourage EAB riding according to participants :

  • Mileage reimbursement

  • Secure parking, purchase subsidies

  • Increasing the number and connectivity of bicycle infrastructures

  • Improving road surfaces

Recommendations to encourage the use of EABs

Based on the Vélovolt experience, our research, regional committee discussions and expert consultations, Équiterre strongly recommends that decision-makers, transportation and development planners, and organizations in general integrate EAB into the transportation mix and encourage its adoption.

Develop self-service bicycle hire, long-term rental and bicycle fleet pooling services 🚴

  • Increase the number of self-service bicycles and their accessibility

  • Offer year-round bike-sharing services

  • Support community initiatives to share bikes and EABs

  • Encourage the emergence of a social and local economy for long-term rental of EABs

  • Set up fleets of EABs for long-term rental by public transport companies

Encourage organizations to use EABs 🏢

  • Set up a professional long-term bike rental program in organizations

  • Introduce a mileage allowance program for bike commuting

  • Increase the number of facilities for cyclists, including safe bike racks, in organizations.

Introduce financial incentives for the purchase and leasing of EABs and bike conversions, financed by a feebate system 💸

  • Offer a subsidy for the replacement of a combustion-powered vehicle with an EAB (fee-premium system).

  • Offer a subsidy for long-term EAB leasing

  • Offer a subsidy for the electric conversion of a standard bicycle

Design land and public spaces to encourage the use of bicycles 🛣️

  • Develop inter- and intra-municipal cycling networks

  • Ensure year-round maintenance of cycling networks

  • Increase the number of secure parking facilities in public spaces

Encourage intermodal travel 🚎

  • Encourage the transport of bicycles and EABs on public transport

  • Integrate bicycle facilities into the design of public transit stations, and increase their number

  • Implement an integrated fare offer for various modes of transport

Regulate and repair EABs, and manage their end of life 🔧

  • Define EABs in the Code de la sécurité routière (Highway Safety Code)

  • Ban the sale of uncertified batteries and their use on public transport

  • Facilitate access to EAB repairs

  • Regulate the end-of-life management of EAB batteries

Communicate, inform, raise awareness and make EABS desirable 📢

  • Encourage individuals to adopt cycling through promotional and awareness-raising campaigns

  • Demystify cycling by dispelling preconceptions about EAB riding

  • Emphasize the social, ecological and economic co-benefits, particularly in relation to the car, to accelerate modal shift.

For more information on our recommendations and to discover examples of initiatives that could inspire Quebec, consult our full study!

The campaign is being run in conjunction with the Association des Centres de Gestion des déplacements du Québec (ACGDQ). Vélovolt receives financial assistance from the Quebec government under the Action-Climat Québec programme and is in line with the objectives of the Plan for a Green Economy 2030.